BMI linked to high costs of workers’ compensation claims

Obese and overweight workers are more likely to incur high costs related to workers’ compensation claims for major injuries, according to data recently published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Edward J. Bernacki, MD, MPH, and colleagues at the University of Texas at Austin analyzed data of 2,300 injured workers in Louisiana. Workers’ compensation costs and outcomes were compared for obese, overweight or normal-weight workers. Obesity was defined as a BMI of 30 or higher and overweight as a BMI between 25 and 30, according to a press release.

After 3 years, about 11% of claims for major injuries, such as fractures or complete tendon tears were still open, indicating that the worker had not yet returned to work, the release noted. Obesity and overweight were not associated with a delayed return to work.

For workers with major injuries, however, high BMI was associated with higher workers’ compensation costs, the release noted. In this cohort, costs averaged about $470,000 for obese and $270,000 for overweight workers, compared to $180,000 for normal-weight workers.

After adjusting for other factors, including high-cost spinal surgeries or injections, obese or overweight workers with major injuries were twice as likely to incur costs of $100,000 or higher, according to the release. BMI had no effect on costs for closed claims or for less-severe injuries.

The researchers plan further studies to confirm that the increased costs related to high BMI are related to medical costs, rather than indemnity costs for lost work time, the release noted.


Bernacki E. J Occup Environ Med. 2016;doi:10.1097/JOM.0000000000000834

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